DURHAM, N.H. - Tournament Most Outstanding Player Alyson Coler (Monte Sereno, Calif.) recorded 19 kills and 11 digs to lead the top-seeded University of New Hampshire volleyball team to its second-straight America East championship with a 3-1 win over No. 3 Northeastern in the championship match Saturday at Lundholm Gymnasium. The Wildcats earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Volleyball Championship with the title as they move to 23-11 on the season.
"It doesn't get any better than this, winning the America East championship in front of a large, boisterous crowd," said UNH head coach Jill Hirschinger. "Winning the conference and getting back to the NCAA tournament puts UNH volleyball on the map." UNH posted a thrilling, come-from-behind victory in game four, winning 32-30. The 'Cats took the first two games by scores of 30-26 and 30-17 before the Huskies stormed back to take a 30-24 win in game three.
New Hampshire trailed by as many as five, 23-18, in the fourth before going on a 5-0 run capped by a Karen Harrington (Windham, N.H.) kill. The Huskies responded with a 4-2 run to take a 27-25 lead, but UNH then registered the next four points to take a 29-27 lead on a kill by Erin Walker (Fulton, N.Y.).
With UNH serving for match point, Northeastern (23-10) responded with a kill then tied the game at 29 on a UNH attack error. The two teams traded points but UNH would take a 31-30 lead on another Walker kill.
With Walker serving, Coler finished off the game and the match for New Hampshire with a hard attack that glanced off a Northeastern defender and sailed out of play to give UNH its second consecutive conference championship and third overall. UNH was also champion in 1998.
"I think it's harder to win the championship for the second time, but it makes it more exciting," said Coler, the two-time and reigning America East Player of the Year. "All year this was the most important thing for us to win the title and get back to the NCAA's, especially for the other seniors and myself since this was our last chance."
Sasha Scott (North Branford, Conn.) and Erin Ludwig (Franklin Lakes, N.J.) were named to the All-Championship Team along with Coler. Scott, the two-time America East Defensive Specialist of the Year, had a team-high 18 digs, while Ludwig had 11 kills, eight digs and five blocks. Natasha Otte (Plymouth, N.H.) registered 13 kills and five blocks while Walker finished with 10 kills.
Harrington also recorded five blocks while Jen Williams (Mountain View, Calif.) had 16 defensive digs. Katie Weidner (Warrenville, Ill.) finished with 32 assists while Anne Davis (Groveland, Ill.) notched 17.
New Hampshire now waits until Sunday, November 30, when the pairings are announced for the 2003 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship. The selection show for the 64-team field will air at 8:00 pm on ESPNEWS.